There will be a debate among the candidates in the Florida U.S. Senate race tomorrow night, Oct. 6, and our friends and colleagues over at the Political Carnival have submitted a question for the frontrunner, the GOP-tea bagger candidate, Marco Rubio:
First of all, for non-Floridians just now tuning in, Marco Rubio is the former state House speaker about whom Sarah Palin said this spring, “I love Marco Rubio. Marco keep up the good work. Call me.” Since then, he’s driven his chief rival, Gov. Charlie Crist, out of the Republican Party — Crist is now challenging him as an independent. In every recent poll, Rubio leads Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek by double digits.
Despite his sunny smile and boyish demeanor, however, Rubio is allegedly just another corrupt conservative. According to CREW, the nonpartisan ethics watchdog group that recently filed a complaint alleging that Delaware GOP tea bagger candidate Christine O’Donnell embezzled campaign donations, Rubio is under investigation by federal authorities:
Mr. Rubio is currently implicated in a federal criminal investigation for the misuse of Florida Republican Party credit cards during his time as speaker. Specifically, the IRS is examining records to determine if Mr. Rubio and other party leaders personally benefitted from the credit card scheme. Legally, party credit cards can only be used for political activities, but Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs, and grocery purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.
Mr. Rubio also admitted he double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007…
Furthermore, Mr. Rubio seems to have misused two political committees for personal gain. Mr. Rubio’s committee likely violated state law by failing to disclose $34,000 worth of expenses in 2003 and 2004 including a $7,000 payment to Mr. Rubio. While other Floridian candidates tend to itemize travel expenses, Mr. Rubio billed more than $51,000 in unidentified travel expenses to his committee. The same committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who is listed as its treasurer. Another Rubio political committee listed $14,000 in payments to family members, at least one of whom had a non-existent address.
Rubio was forced to repay a portion of the credit card bills, but because of these and other serious charges — including allegations that Rubio “inserted earmarks into the state budget for his personal gain” — CREW named Rubio one of its “Crooked Candidates of 2010.”
Based on publicly available records, the lobbyist Amber Stoner’s name appeared on Rubio’s credit card statements at least 10 times in 2007, his first year as House speaker:
- 2007-02-14 Tallahasee Delta (Unknown/Atlanta/Tallahasee)
- 2007-02-28 Tallahasee Delta (Miami/Tallahasee)
- 2007-05-11 Columbia, SC USAirways (Columbia/Charlotte/Tallahasse)
- 2007-05-15 Atlanta Delta (Tallahasee/Atlanta/Philadelphia)
- 2007-05-20 Tallahasee Delta (Unused – credit)
- 2007-05-27 N/A Delta (Tallahasee/Orlando)
- 2007-05-27 Tallahasee Continental (Tallahasee/Tampa)
- 2007-05-27 Tallahasee Delta (Orlando/Tallahasee)
- 2007-05-29 Tallahasee Continental (Tallahasee/Tampa)
- 2007-07-12 Tallahasee USAirways
So who is Amber Stoner? There is an Amber Stoner listed in the Florida Lobbyist Directory. If this is the same Amber Stoner whose travel Rubio paid for, she is a lobbyist for HCA Healthcare, based in Tallahassee.
HCA Healthcare is a corporate brand with a lot of baggage. According to its Wikipedia page, “Hospital Corporation of America is the largest private operator of health-care facilities in the world.” Yeah, a force of evil — and then there’s company’s troubled history. Its founders were members of the Frist family — the family of heart surgeon Bill Frist, the Bushite Tennessee senator whom Karl Rove installed as majority leader in 2002, after then-Majority Leader Trent Lott disgraced himself by yearning out loud for the America that was lost when segregationist Strom Thurmond was not elected president in 1948 — an America still segregated today where, Lott said, “we wouldn’t have all these problems.” As majority leader, Frist led the GOP’s rubberstamping of the Bush agenda, which ultimately resulted in the collapse of the U.S. economy, among other crises. (In 2005, Frist dodged an investigation into insider trading after he sold all his HCA shares two weeks before the stock value plunged. It was all just a coincidence, we’re sure.)
But wait, there’s more. At some point, HCA merged with Columbia Hospital Corporation to become Columbia/HCA. Columbia Hospital Corporation was founded by Rick Scott, the current Republican candidate for governor of Florida. Back then, Scott was in charge of the company in the late 1990s at the time it perpetrated the largest-ever health-care fraud on the American taxpayers. The fraud was so massive that Scott was forced out of HCA. The company ultimately paid $1.7 billion in settlements (which, no doubt, it passed back its patients in the form of higher fees). The good news is, Scott is trailing Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor, in most polls.
Obviously, there is a lot more digging that needs to be done here, and GottaLaff at the Political Carnival says that a columnist in Florida will be talking to the primary source for the information about the credit card charges and the rest.
In the meantime, during tomorrow night’s debate, let’s hope someone will ask Marco Rubio, the former Florida House speaker, why he paid to fly an HCA Healthcare lobbyist around the state and elsewhere.